Charter Revision panel on Stonington agenda today

Stonington — The Board of Selectmen will hold a special meeting at 1 this afternoon in Town Hall to complete its interview of candidates for the newly formed Charter Revision Commission and then appoint members to the panel.

On Monday night, the board interviewed 16 candidates. They are former Selectmen Stephen Bessette and John Gomes, former school board chairman and state Sen. James Murphy, attorney Matthew Berger, former school board member Kevin Bornstein, and Robert Statchen, who along with Bornstein led the petition effort that forced the town to form the commission and address the way Board of Finance members are elected.

Also interviewed were residents who are frequently seen at meetings commenting on town and school issues, including Gail Shea, Sue Jones, Bill Sternberg and James Turner. Other candidates who were interviewed were Jim Kelley, Michael Fauerbach, Ashley Gillece, Amy Hambly, Alice Soscia and Connie Frishman.

The board is slated to interview Michelle Drake and Ben Davol at this afternoon's meeting. It also has to decide how many people to appoint to the commission, which can have between five and 15 members.

The citizens’ group Change the Charter collected more than 1,500 signatures — more than the 10 percent of the town’s 12,220 registered voters that was required — to force the creation of the commission.

Change the Charter wants the commission to examine the nominating process, balloting, terms and party representation of the finance board.

Every two years, two members — each with six-year terms — come up for election. The current procedure calls for the Democratic and Republican town committees to nominate one candidate each for the two positions. This means that if there is not a third party, petitioning or independent candidate, the two party-endorsed candidates run unopposed and are elected. Voters are asked to select one of two candidates on their ballots, but both are elected.

While past attempts to change the process have failed, this year’s effort began this spring when some residents became upset after more than 500 people attended a public hearing on the proposed 2014-15 budget, but the finance board refused their request to restore money it had cut from the school budget in order to let the voters decide at the polls.

Change the Charter has called the system of electing finance board members “wrong, undemocratic, and outdated.”

The commission is expected to consider issues beyond the Board of Finance election process. Voters eventually would have to approve any recommended changes to the charter.

Twitter: @joewojtas

Editor's note: This version corrects the spelling of Jim Kelley's name.

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